Keith Kopelson collected 866 votes in his bid for the Liberty Lake City Council just over two months ago, falling short to opponent Shane Brickner by less than 80 ballots.
On Tuesday, five votes was all it took to usher Kopelson in as the newest representative of the governing board.
Keith Kopelson (right) is congratulated by Liberty Lake Mayor Steve Peterson after being named to newest member of the City Council on Tuesday night. Kopelson, who lost to Shane Brickner for a council bid in the November election, won appointment by a 5-0 vote of the governing board.
Photo by: Craig Howard
The New York native was appointed by a unanimous vote of his future peers at a special City Council meeting on Jan. 31, winning out over four fellow applicants. After serving since May 2009, Ryan Romney stepped down from the dais on Dec. 27, citing work and family obligations.
Kopelson, a regular at City Council meetings despite losing to Brickner in the November general election, displayed an acute awareness of municipal issues when answering a series of questions delivered by council members and Mayor Steve Peterson.
“I wanted to make sure I was ready if they asked about specifics,” Kopelson said.
In response to an inquiry about differing views on the council and potential divisiveness, Kopelson said it would be important for city leaders to “have mutual respect” and “do the right things for the right reasons.”
“This is not about personalities,” Kopelson said. “There are important decisions being made here.”
After a 40-minute executive session, City Council emerged with a consensus in support of Kopelson. He took the oath of office shortly thereafter.
The proprietor of a janitorial/security business and co-founder of the Liberty Lake Merchants Association, Kopelson was the only applicant for Romney’s vacated chair who ran on the November ballot. The other four candidates – Lewis Valkenaar, Wadie Elaimy, Ashley Salzwedel and Scott Simon – replied to the same sequence of questions as Kopelson. Each applicant had an opportunity to present a two-minute summary following the questions.
“I don’t want to be appointed because I was the one person who ran for office,” Kopelson told council members during his interview. “But I do want you to know that I had 800-plus people vote for me.”
During the fall campaign, Kopelson spoke out in support of Proposition 1, which would have changed the form of government in Liberty Lake from a strong mayor system to an administration overseen by a city administrator. The initiative was voted down by a resounding 70-percent margin.
Kopelson was also critical of the city’s 6-percent utility tax installed at the end of 2010 as well as proposed cuts to the municipal library. In passing the general budget for 2012, the City Council reduced the utility tax – levied on gas, electric, waste, cable and phone bills – to 3 percent.
Reiterating a theme he championed as a candidate, Kopelson said on Tuesday that he “would speak for the regular citizens of Liberty Lake.”
“I want to keep the city moving in the right direction,” he said.
Peterson said Kopelson will be a stellar addition to the governing board.
“He’s a very good person,” the mayor said. “He’s very articulate and is interested in what goes on in this community.”
Peterson also applauded the quartet of candidates for casting their lots to join the council.
“We had a wonderful group of people apply,” he said. “You’re part of the fabric of this community.”
Also on Tuesday, Council Member Odin Langford was selected as mayor pro tem for the remainder of the year. Appointments were also announced for 2012 standing committees, starting with Finance: Langford, Cris Kaminskas and Brickner. Susan Schuler, Dan Dunne and Kaminskas will serve on the Public Safety Committee and Dunne, Kopelson and Josh Beckett will comprise the Community Development Committee.